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No NCLB Waiver for Texas on Testing for Younger Students

A state request to waive No Child Left Behind testing requirements for students in elementary and middle school has been denied by the federal government, thwarting a state effort to end some tests for high-performing students.

Texas Education Agency commissioner Michael Williams announces at a press conference that he is stripping all authority from the El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees. The move comes in the wake of a cheating scandal that landed the former superintendent in federal prison.

The federal government has denied the state's request to waive No Child Left Behind testing requirements for students in elementary and middle school, the Texas Education Agency announced Monday. 

If the waiver had been granted, students who excel on state reading and math exams in the third and fifth grades would have been allowed to skip exams in those subjects in the fourth, sixth and seventh grades because of a state law passed this year, House Bill 866, by state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Humble. All students would be tested on math in the third and fifth grades; on reading in the third, fifth and eighth grades.

In a Sept. 6 letter, Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle told TEA commissioner Michael Williams that the federal education department would not exercise its authory to waive No Child Left Behind provisions that require Texas and other states to test public school students in grades three through eight annually in reading and math and at least once in science in elementary and middle school.  

She wrote that annual assessment was "critical to holding schools and LEAs [local education agencies] accountable for improving the achievement of all students."

Despite sharply reducing the number of standardized tests high school students must pass to graduate, lawmakers — in response to widespread concern over the effects of excessive assessment on classroom instruction — failed this year to bring conclusive relief for students in lower grades, who take a total of 17 state tests before entering high school. 

Like many states,  Texas has currently applied for a separate, general waiver of No Child Left Behind.  A decision on that request, which would not affect testing requirements, is expected soon.

“As has been granted in other states, Texas school districts also deserve some relief from NCLB,” Commissioner Williams said in a written statement. “I remain optimistic that after months of discussion with the U.S. Department of Education, our districts will be granted greater flexibility for some NCLB provisions.”

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